Singer Litigation Library

Trial Consultants, Inc.
1463 NW 104th Drive
Gainesville, FL 32606
Tel: (954) 530-8231
Fax: (954) 337-0527

Articles Table of Contents

A version of this article first appeared in TRIAL magazine.

The Best Jury Research
Format to Test Trial Themes

by Amy Singer, Ph.D.

There are special jury focus groups and other special jury simulations that are planned and designed specifically to test a particular trial variable or variables - the most effective voir dire questions, the case's true settlement value, the effect of a particular witness's testimony, and so on. What special jury focus group or jury simulation format works best to determine the right trial theme?

After planning and organizing more than 14,000 jury focus groups and jury simulations during the past 15 years, our firm has determined that one specific surrogate jury research format - the "interactive" focus group - works best to test trial themes.

This distinctive jury focus group is organized on an informal basis to encourage the surrogate jurors' full and open participation and interaction. The surrogate jurors can sit, stand, or move about as they desire, hors d'oeuvres and other refreshments are available, and the overall setting is kept as casual as possible to promote a relaxed "social-type" ambience. (An ideal setting for the "interactive" focus group is a hotel suite with one or more sofas and numerous easy chairs.)

Both sides of the case are presented during the focus group proceedings, followed immediately by comprehensive deliberations among the surrogate jurors. A behavioral scientist is present to stimulate but in no way lead these deliberations. His or her primary goal is to keep the discussion focused on what the surrogate jurors determine to be the basic issues of the case.

The surrogate jurors are subtly encouraged to simplify the case - to break it down into its fundamental components and issues. They are further encouraged to develop answers for some essential questions: What is the significance of the case? What is it all about? What is its underlying message? What word of phrase best describes the case and brings it all together? What is its theme?

In addition to a professional analysis of the group's deliberations, each surrogate juror is interviewed privately to determine his or her attitudes concerning the basic issues of the case. These individual responses are evaluated psychometrically (the methodology for quantifying mental and other subjective data) vis-ˆ-vis the various trial themes being investigated and/or tested; and each individual response is again measured psychometrically against the surrogate jury's group deliberations concerning the theme of the case as they envision it.

Through this highly focused investigatory process, the basic theme for the case clearly emerges. This special "interactive" focus group testing is then repeated again and again with different sets of surrogate jurors to ensure the validity of the results as established - i.e., the trial theme guaranteed to achieve the widest latitude of acceptance with potential jurors.

¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤